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About

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a Metroidvania-styled video game developed by ArtPlay and published by 505 Games. The game's development was led by former Castlevania series producer Koji Igarashi and is considered a spiritual successor to the series. The game was released for Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in June 2019, for iOS and Android in December 2020, and for Stadia in July 2021.

Igarashi conceived the game after his departure from Konami in 2014, prompted by numerous fan requests to continue making games in the style of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. He utilize the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to demonstrate the demand for the game to potential sources of funding for it in 2015. The campaign successfully raised more than $5.5 million from backers, eleven times its original goal, making it one of the most successful video game campaigns on the platform. Ritual of the Night get generally positive reviews upon release, with many describing it as a worthy successor to the Castlevania games that inspired it.

Ritual of the Night was the second game to be released in the Bloodstained series; a retro-style companion game, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, was developed by Inti Creates as a stretch goal and released earlier in May 2018.

Plot

Bloodstained takes territoryin 18th century England during the Industrial Revolution. Fearing the loss of their influence over their wealthy patrons, the Alchemy Clanresearched way to summon demons and madeShardbinders, humans forcibly fused with demonically-charged crystals that attuned them to their powers. These Shardbinders were sacrificed by the Clanto summon demons from Hell in what was meant to be a scare tactic but instead brought uncontrollable destruction that wiped out the Clanand much of England until the Church was able to banish them. Of the sacrificed Shardbinders, only one named Gebel survived. Another Shardbinder, the main protagonist Miriam, is spared due to falling into an unnatural slumber before she shouldbe sacrificed.

Ten years later in the game's present-day, Miriam has awakened from her slumber and has learned that Gebel has summoned the demons to destroy England as he seeks revenge on the surviving alchemists for what they did to him. Accompanied by Johannes, a former member of the Alchemy Guild, they sail across the ocean to Arvantville, a destroyed village on the outskirts of Gebel's castle, the Hellhold. They meet with Johannes's mateDominique, an exorcist who helped Johannes vehicle for Miriam during her slumber and has been sent by the Church to assistthem stop Gebel.

As Miriam launch her adventureinto the Hellhold, she confronts Alfred, a surviving member of the Alchemy Clanand the former mentor to Johannes. Alfred seeks to recover an ancient book utilize in the demon summoning by Gebel, the Liber Logaeth, and threatens to slayMiriam if she does not leave. As his former student, Johannes deeply distrusts Alfred's motives and fears he may be making another mistake, partially feeling responsible for the actions that Alfred and the other alchemists took in harming Gebel, Miriam, and the other Shardbinders. She also crosses paths multiple times with Zangetsu, a demon hunter from Japan who initially distrusts Miriam due to her Shardbinder powers having ties to demons, but over time launch to respect her strength. Zangetsu explains that he is seeking a demon named Gremory, who is continuously eluding him for fear of his power. He gives Miriam his katana thinking that Gremory will not expect her to be wielding it and drop her guard.

Miriam confronts Gebel in the Hellhold's throne room, and she attempts to reason with him by reminding him that during the trauma of her transformation into a Shardbinder, he was the one who taught her to never give up on her humanity. Though he briefly seems moved by her words, Gebel remains defiant and the two Shardbinders fight. CanGebel be killed, he will thank Miriam for stopping him, but the game will immediately end as Miriam wonders if she angry the right choice. Using Zangetsu's katana, Miriam instead exposes Gremory's hiding territoryin the throne room and she escapes. Freed from the demon's control, Gebel is only able to give Miriam his final apologies before the crystals in his body consume him completely. Alfred then arrives to steal the Liber Logaeth from them and flees.

Miriam chases Gremory and Alfred through a dimensional portal into another part of the castle. Inside, she search Alfred mortally wounded and the Liber Logaeth gone. As he dies, he explains that he was trying to utilizethe Liber Logaeth as part of a spell he had cast throughout the Hellhold to destroy it. He also reveals that he was the one who put Miriam in her slumber ten years ago to sabotage the Clans summoning, knowing her power as a Shardbinder was so immense that it would have brought even worse destruction than what was summoned had she been sacrificed.

Reuniting with Zangetsu, Miriam tracks down Gremory. Zangetsu utilize his power to bind the demon in place, but he is seemingly killed in the process and so Miriam defeats Gremory alone. She then locates the Liber Logaeth and the one who stole it: Dominique. Craving the power to defy and destroy God for letting everybody die during the demon summoning ten years ago, Dominique reveals that she has turned herself into a Shardbinder through extensive study of Miriam and Gebel and utilize the Liber Logaeth to summon Bael, the lordof demons. Miriam banishes Dominique and Bael, and Johannes utilize the Liber Logaeth to complete Alfred's spell and destroy the Hellhold.

As peace returns to the land, Miriam mourns the sacrifices angry for her winand wonders if the globewill ever truly be free of the demons. Johannes consoles Miriam by revealing that with the Liber Logaeth, he may have the means to permanently stop the crystals from consuming her body. Miriam and Johannes leave Arvantville while an unseen person's shadow steps into view, revealed to be Zangetsu, who survived the happening of the story after managing to escape Hell. He retrieves his sword, Zangetsuto, after watching the pair walk away.

Gameplay

The game follows the Metroidvania-style gameplay of the post-Symphony of the Night games of the Castlevania series. As Miriam, the player explores a labyrinthine series of rooms presented as a platform game, fighting creature and bosses and gaining keys or powers that allowthem explore previous location that were previously impossible to reach. Miriam is able to utilizevarious weapons to perform melee or ranged attacks to defeat creature, or special abilities granted by the shards she possesses from creature to perform magical attacks. Miriam has both a health bar and a magic power bar. Health is lost to creatureand environmental attacks, and canthis drop to zero, the game is over, requiring the player to load the last save state. Health shouldbe restored by using stuffor finding health drops from creature or environmental pieces. Magic power is drained by using shard skills, and if out of mana, the player cannot utilizeshard skills, but mana shouldbe similarly regained as with health.

The player gains freshweapons, armor and accessories throughout the game by defeating creature and looting chests. This equipment provides various attributes to Miriam along with offensive and defensive bonuses. For weapons, this also set the kindof attacks that the player shouldmake. For example, short swords leta variety of fast, close-ranged attacks, spears enable slow but long-reaching attacks, and guns letfor long-distance shots but with no melee possibilities. The equipment shouldbe modify on the fly via menu screens. Shards are obtained by defeating creature, and generally includea power reflecting the essence of the creatureit came from. The player shouldonly equip a limited number of shards, but like equipment, shards shouldbe swapped out on the fly.

Among the maze of rooms containsave rooms, allowing the player to save their game and fully regenerate Miriam's health and magic power. Additionally, warp rooms letthe player to fastjump from one region of the map to another previously discovered warp room. Following the game's prelude, the player also gains admissionto a set of non-playable hero located at the start of the map that provide shop to buy and sell weapons, shards, ingredients and crafting services to make freshweapons or modernizeshards. The game is presented in a 2.5D style, presenting the game in three-dimensional graphics but restricting movement to a 2D system. Igarashi stated the choice for 2.5D was to follow the style of previous Castlevania games, such as The Dracula X Chronicles and Mirror of Fate.

Development

Producer and scenario writer Koji Igarashi at the 2017 FreshYork Comic Con

Bloodstained is a spiritual successor to the Castlevania series by Konami, of which Koji Igarashi had been the series producer from 2001 to 2010. In March 2014, Igarashi opted to leave Konami, stating concern for his continued employment and differences in the directions they wanted to take the company. Igarashi later stated "For the longest time, when I was working at Konami, I was protected by my company. They took vehicle of me. Now I'm typeof anxious." Igarashi also stated that he had get a hugenumber of requests from fans to continue to develop Castlevania games, giving him another reason to leave Konami and aim to start his own studio to develop these fan-requested games, including a Metroidvania-styled game with similar themes to Castlevania.

Prior to his departure, fresh of the success of the Kickstarter for Mighty No. 9, a Mega Man-inspired game produced by the former series producer and artist Keiji Inafune, had reached Japan, and inspired Igarashi that this could be a similar route to obtain funding for a freshgame. Following his departure, he began pitching for funding of a freshgame with the assistof Digital Development Management's Ben Judd, who has also assisted with Mighty No. 9's funding. They approached more than twenty publishers with the pitch, but found that none of them were willing to help. According to Judd, while Igarashi's reputation reduced the risk involved with the title and the projected budget was modest, the publishers were skeptical. Japanese publishers wanted to make sure that the American and European markets would wishthe title, and Castlevania games historically were not as well get in European markets. Western publishers trust the Japanese origins of the games were too strange for them. After six months with no success, Igarashi opted to join mobile developer ArtPlay as a paying job, but worked with the organizationto assure that he would be free to continue to pursue this freshgame idea.

Kickstarter

Igarashi recognized the success of Mighty No. 9's Kickstarter, and began seeking how to accomplish the same for his vision. He and Judd were able to locate investors that would assistcontribute funds, but only if they could presentthere was a powerfulinterest in the title. The two opted to utilizeKickstarter to demonstrate what they trust would be a famoustitle, seeking to gain $500,000 to secure funding that would cover the remaining 10% of development costs. The Kickstarter was launched on 11 May 2015. Promotion and handling of the social media for the Kickstarter campaign was handled by Fangamer. Prior to the Kickstarter, Igarashi teased the announcement through social media using the phrases "igavania" and "sword or whip", and on the day of the announcement, participated in live streaming happeningvia Twitch playing several other Metroidvania titles with various gaming personalities and developers. 2 Player Productions helped with filming Igarashi's pitch for the Kickstarter at Castello di Amorosa in northern California a month prior to its announcement.

The game succeeded in its base goal within four hours of going live, and reached $1.5 million within the first day. Various stretch goals were introduced and met, including obtaining David Hayter as a voice actor for the game. Hayter had originally been slated for the role of Gebel, but ended up as Zangetsu for the final game. Additional stretch goals contain hiring Robert Belgrade, the voice of Alucard in Symphony of the Night to have a voice role, and allowing artist Ayami Kojima to create the packaging artwork for physical copies. Other stretch goals contain a retro-style companion game titled Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, assistancefor local co-operative play, a boss rush mode, a "classic mode" which reworks some portions of the game's maps into strictly-linear levels akin to the original Castlevania games, and a roguelike dungeon mode where the player shouldchallenge a procedurally-generated dungeon. In addition to monetary stretch goals, Igarashi offered additional giftsfor all backers based on the amount of social media materialthe Kickstarter generates, such as followers of the game on Twitter or Facebook or number of pieces of fan artwork submitted to its site. The Bloodstained Kickstarter was successfully funded with more than $5.5M in pledges, and as of June 2015 the highest value video game Kickstarter project, exceeding the previous amount set by Torment: Tides of Numenera. However, about two months afterwards, the Kickstarter for Shenmue III broke Bloodstained's record, raising over $6.3 million in a similar period as Bloodstained.

Design

Igarashi and ArtPlay developed the game's narrative, design, and overseeing production, while they hired DICO as a third-party publisher around June 2016 to helpin developing the game's assets and level design. The game is published and marketed by 505 Games. Developer Inti Creates, whose name had been relatedwith Bloodstained earlier in the project, had been involved in developing a mini-game that was released alongside the main game. Bloodstained was developed for Unreal Engine 4. Near the end of 2018, Igarashi announced they had also brought on WayForward to assistwith some development, specifically in the locationof polishing the title. Igarashi had been impressed by WayForward's skill in 2D platform games, such as their Shantae series, and was excited for them to be part of the project.

The game's name is based around the concept of a magi-crystal curse that inflicts the main hero: they grow across the person's body with the appearance of stained glass, and Igarashi felt that "Bloodstained" was a awesomeplay on words to reflect that. While the title is thematically based around the Gothic theme like Castlevania, Igarashi did not wishto incorporate the public websiteheroof Dracula into it, feeling it would make the game too close to previous Castlevania titles and did not wishto make his freshgame feel like a "half-baked copy". Igarashi opted to make the main playable heroMiriam female based on recognizing current trends in video games in Western markets to showpowerfulfemale lead hero that the broad range of intended players of either gender would enjoy playing, while avoiding the developmental encumbrances of creating two separate-gendered playable hero.

The game's melodywas written primarily by Michiru Yamane, a former Konami composer who worked on the melodyfor several Castlevania games, along with the musical group Noisycroak and a single track by Ippo Yamada. Shutaro Iida, who worked on previous Castlevania games as a programmer, director and designer, returned to the game in the role of a planner.

Release

At the end of the Kickstarter in June 2015, Bloodstained was designedfor release in 2017 on Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation Vita and Wii U through the campaign's stretch goals. At this point in time, the Unreal Engine 4 was not yet ported to either the Vita or Wii U. Armature Studio was set to do these ports, with plans to release the code base for both the Wii U and Vita ports for free to any studio licensed to work on it once they had overcome the lack of Unreal on these platforms. During the game's development process, Nintendo discontinued the Wii U and released the Nintendo Switch in March 2017. Igarashi opted to transfer development from the Wii U to the Switch, offering backers who had chosenthe Wii U version a refund or a choice of the game on a different platform, with the Switch being the default option for backers who had previously selectedthe Wii U. Igarashi had started the Kickstarter when the Wii U was the dominant Nintendo platform, but with the introduction of the Switch since that point, he found it difficult to assistancethe Wii U, and called for the transition. The PlayStation Vita version of the game was cancelled in August 2018 due to Sony dropping assistancefor the handheld; backers that desired the Vita release were given the option of selecting the game for a different platform for free or assorted refund options. In December 2018, the squadannounced that the planned macOS and Linux versions of the game had also been cancelled, citing challenges of supporting middleware and online features.

Though Igarashi originally anticipated a 2017 release, he announced in September 2016 that he was bringing a second studio to assistwith the development of the game, and delayed the game. Igarashi stated the delay was primarily due to the added work to complete the campaign's stretch goals, a factor he could not consider during the Kickstarter period, and his commitment to making a high quality game, "better than a traditional Igavania game that I've angry in the past" and not wanting to back down on quality just to make the original release date. The amount of work in man-hours, along with Inti Creates' inexperience with the Unreal engine to complete some of the concepts he wanted in the game, led Igarashi to bring in additional studios and push back the release date. Igarashi later revealed these studios as DICO, who have experience with localization and global development, and Monobit, for techsupportwith the game engine. With the delay in release, the development squad were able to containan improved visual style to the game, addressing early player concerns about the visuals present in earlier stages of development.

A single-level demonstration of Bloodstained was angry accessibleto play for attendees of Electronic Entertainment Expo 2016, and was released to Kickstarter backers a week later. In July 2016, Igarashi announced that the game had entered full production. The game was playable again at EGX Rezzed 2019.

Bloodstained was released on 18 June 2019 for Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One versions, and was released a week later on 25 June 2019 for the Nintendo Switch. Following the approach utilize by Shovel Knight, the game utilize a post-release materialmodel so that they are able to bring additional content, such as the game modes from the additional Kickstarter stretch goals, over time to avoid release delays. On 10 May 2020, the first of these updates was released, adding Zangetsu as an unlockable heroand a Randomizer Mode. This would be followed up by a second update on 3 July 2020 that added Boss Revenge and Chroma Wheel. As part of the Kickstarter's stretch goals, Inti Creates also developed a companion game, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, a NES-stylized platform game with Miriam and Gebel playable alongside the swordsman exorcist Zangetsu and the alchemist Alfred. It was released on Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Switch on 24 May 2018. A sequel to Curse of the Moon was announced in June 2020. Mobile ports for iOS and Android devices, developed by NetEase and ArtPlay, were announced in October 2020. These ports were released on 3 December 2020.

Igarashi had stated that given the amount of time he has spent in developing the Bloodstained intellectual property, he sees the game as "a starting ground" for future Bloodstained games.

Reception

According to review aggregator Metacritic, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night get "generally favorable" reviews on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, and "mixed or average" reviews on Nintendo Switch.

At launch, the Nintendo Switch version was seen as inferior to the other versions, with critics citing input lag, washed-out visuals, and stuttering frame rates. In response, the developers shifted their resources to optimizing the Nintendo Switch version with a series of smaller patches instead of having players wait for a single hugeupdate.

The PC version was among the best-selling freshreleases on Steam when it released. By June 2020, the game had reached 1 million units sold.

Awards

The game was nominated for the Off Broadway Award for Best Indie Game at the FreshYork Game Awards, and won the award for "Control Precision" at the NAVGTR Awards, whereas its other nomination was for "Game, Original Action"; it was also nominated for "Most Promising FreshIntellectual Property" at the SXSW Gaming Awards.

Other media

Miriam, Zangetsu, Gebel, and Alfred appeared in the 2018 strategy RPG Kingdom Two Crowns as part of a crossover happeningin April 2020.

Footnotes


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Details

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
International packaging art featuring the game's protagonist, Miriam, drawn by Mana Ikeda.
Developer(s)
  • ArtPlay
Publisher(s)505 GamesDirector(s)Shutaro IidaProducer(s)Koji IgarashiDesigner(s)Shutaro IidaProgrammer(s)Shingo TateArtist(s)
  • Yuji Natsume
  • Mana Ikeda
Writer(s)Koji IgarashiComposer(s)
EngineUnreal Engine 4Platform(s)Release
  • Windows, PS4, Xbox One
  • 18 June 2019
  • Nintendo Switch
  • 25 June 2019
  • iOS, Android
  • 3 December 2020
Genre(s)MetroidvaniaMode(s)Single-player, multiplayer
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